Lorraine Feather

New York City Drag

Rhombus Records RHO 7020

Lorraine Feather, vocals, lyricist; Dick Hyman, Mike Lang, keyboards.

Although the name Lorraine Feather may not be as familiar to Jazz audiences as, say, Diana Krall or even Dianne Reeves, nevertheless, Feather is deeply steeped in Jazz, being the offspring of a mother who was a big band singer i her early years, and a father whose credentials are platinum, to say the least: Leonard Feather.

It should, therefore, be no surprise to find Ms. Feather setting her own wickedly clever lyrics to the quirky music of the legendary Fats Waller. According to Charles Champlin's informative liner notes, after listening to Waller's Turn on the Heat album, Feather translated the tune, "Smashing Thirds" into what she re-titled "Cezanne." On playing her demo of it for piano whiz (and Waller aficionado) Dick Hyman, he encouraged her to expand the material into a CD. Hyman dug into his own archives for more songs; Los Angeles-based pianist Mike Lang was also enlisted, contributing some of his old transcriptions -- and the two keyboardists appear alternately on all but one track (Waller, himself, is heard in a digital transcription on "Cezanne").

The results is a whimsical, witty and superbly arranged set of tunes that do full justice to both Waller and Feather as unique individuals. Feather has an impressive background as a lyricist, starting out with the group Full Swing, evolving through original material for the likes of Kenny Rankin, Diane Schuur, Cleo Laine and Patti Austin. She has written for television and films since 1992, earning seven Emmy nominations, and supplied songs for "Disney's Jungle Book II."

Feather's voice is a delight: supple, Pure, sensuous, wide ranging; her diction excellent -- an absolute necessity for following her 100-words-a-minute words on the uptempo numbers. Her revised titles are ingenious, with sometimes hilarious story-lines to go with them, e.g. "The Minor Drag" becomes "You're Outta Here" and "African Ripples" and Gladyse" becomes "Gal on the Side, Parts I and II" -- which you just have to listen to in order to appreciate this lady's sense of Humor.

There are only a few really familiar Waller tunes here, such as "Viper's Drag," Blue Black Bottom" and "Chelsea." However, it's a treat to hear some of the more obscure Waller compositions -- and also to savor the marvelous pianistics of Hyman and Lang, who know the composer's work inside and out. Several other musicians appear, including violinist Charlie Bisharat, bassist Chuck Berghofer, and guitarist John Pisano, among others, all of whom make valuable contributions. Feather pays own special tribute to Waller in her re-fashioned "Numb Fumblin'" which she calls "In Living Balck and White": "He was a rascal to remember and he's captured here in living black and white, a cutie on his left , an empty brandy bottle on his right."

This is a one-of-a-kind recording, at the same time nostalgic and up to date. Feather is not only a superlative interpreter of Lyrics, but an unusual storyteller. The work invites many listenings to extract its full impact.

by Francesca Nemko

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